The groundbreaking documentaries from Netflix and Hulu that covered the disastrous Fyre Festival showed us how easy it is for someone to scam you out of your hard earned money. We even praised social media character, Joanne the Scammer, for scamming her Caucasian counterparts. The scamming game is ruining lives.
Keisha Williams was sentenced last week for scamming innocent people out of millions of dollars while she lived lavishly. While vacationing in the Bahamas, the 43-year-old just had to stay at the Ritz-Carlton. It was a necessity that her cabana had a balcony, and she was even particular with her food orders: her shrimp could not be jumbo. When she traveled to Rome, she had the nerve to complain that the Mercedes picking her up was in fact “too small” and was not her “vision of luxury.” Williams had a knack for bragging as well, telling people she saw comedian Tracy Morgan in Bora Bora, and claiming to have “ the biggest villa on the island.”
All of this was a lie because Williams was a professional scammer.
“The way in which you spent this money . . . is appalling,” Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said. “It was one of the worst cases I’ve seen.”
The Ashburn, Virginia native admitted to blowing all the money on luxury vacations, cars, restaurants and in high-end stores. Over the past four years, Williams ran a health care software scam claiming the Austrian system would allow doctors to examine and talk with patients remotely. She conned 50 people out of their savings. One of them was California businessman named Christian D’Andrade. D’Andrade invested $1.4 million of his own money in helping Williams.
According to records, Williams never even fully purchased the system she was selling. She spent less than $300,000 of the total $5.4 million she had gotten from investors. Because of the scam, D’Andrade lost his business, most of his possessions, including all his savings plus savings of his girlfriend, his ex-wife, and a business mentee. Though it technically wasn’t his fault, the businessman admitted that he lied to other victims when asked where the money was really going. He is serving a probationary sentence.
Unfortunately, D’Andrade introduced colleagues to Williams who were also scammed out of money. Carla McPhun, a Maryland real estate investor, didn’t realize the project was a fraud until she saw Williams being arrested last February. “That was only the beginning of the nightmare,” McPhun said. She was also sentenced to probation as an unwilling co-conspirator.
Authorities first got wind of Williams after complaints kept coming in that her consulting firm charged small businesses advance fees for work she never did. Prosecutors say they also found evidence that she was involved in mortgage fraud. In court, Williams showed little to no remorse, and instead of apologizing, she zoomed in on her education and career, hoping the judge would send her for rehabilitation instead of jail. “I believe I am a good person who made some bad choices,” Williams said. “I’m a new person.”
She even used the excuse that her grandmother was dying to get money from people, claiming to be broke and that the money would help with medical bills. She called on D’Andrade to send her $150,000 immediately after claiming she detained in Austria. Williams had just got back from Bora Bora.
Williams pleaded guilty to 14 fraud-related charges and was sentenced to over 15 years in federal prison.